Hearts on Fire — Reflections on Parsi photography: past, present and future: Chemould CoLab | Group Show

8 September - 15 October 2022

Curated by Sarica Robyn Balsari


Aaran Patel | Avinash Jai Singh | Bindi Sheth | Divya Cowasji | Farzin Adenwalla | Hemant Chaturvedi | Iyanah Bativala | Jyoti Bhatt | Perin Pudumjee Coyaji | Porus Vimadalal | Sooni Taraporevala | Shantanu Das | Sunhil Sippy


Showcases by Shreas Pardiwalla, Yohan Marshall and  Zervaan Bunshah


“Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past”.

T.S. Eliot. “Burnt Norton, Four Quartets” (1936).


Hearts on Fire presents works by thirteen artists on the nature of Parsi identity, exploring the diverse ways in which the Parsi community has been visually represented and placing specific emphasis on contemporary images amidst shifting narratives of memory and belonging.


The Parsi community has had a long and vibrant tradition of photographic engagement. Its distinctive visual culture finds natural expression in the baugs, agiary, domestic spheres and the symbolic landscape of Udvada. Images of Parsi individuals offer a window onto a world that reveres family ties and holds close the memories of departed souls through framed photographs and family albums. Yet, rather than merely embodiments of the past, the works exhibited here, by contrast, emphasise the itinerancy of photographs and their accrual of meaning across space and time. 


Photographs act as a performative space for transformation and play. Levity is particularly apt for Parsis, whose famed humour can be seen in natak, where self-representation on the proscenium recalls their visibility in front of the camera. Young Parsis today are discovering avenues to reinvent themselves via ludic imagery on social media, such as memes and reels that critically traverse social, linguistic and geographical borders.


Advancing this concept of “play”, the exhibited works disrupt traditional binaries of the past and the future, history and the contemporary, instead defining new contours of Parsi identity. Taking Roland Barthes’ suggestion that cameras are “clocks for seeing” and T.S. Eliot’s poem as points of departure, this exhibition intentionally juxtaposes traditional portraits with contemporary photographs in order to propose an understanding of “Parsiness” free from simplistic, temporal categorisation. Rejecting the notion of a singular Parsi identity, then, the works present diverse forms rife with complexities. 


We warmly invite viewers to engage with and reflect on Parsi photographic practice through the kaleidoscopic lens of the past, present and future. Our playful jumbling also underpins the selection to include both Parsi and non-Parsi artists in the show, whose practice incorporates documentary photography, film, cinematography, fashion and design. Ranging from staged portraits to candid moments and cinematic stylisation, the distinct methodologies and backgrounds of the artists themselves offer a powerful lens for observing Parsi identity. The choice of Chemould CoLab as venue further speaks to the desire to provide a platform for younger artists and revisit the works from Portrait of a Community in a contemporary light. Building on this previous show, we trace a genealogy of Parsi visual representation from the past to the present.


With this exhibition, we cast identity as unfinished and emergent, with photographs providing a space for unfolding possibilities.  


-Sarica Robyn Balsari

Installation Views
Press release